Time for the action from the World Cup. England’s group included Morocco, Ireland and Australia. You would think this was an easy group, I was pretty happy that it didn’t include any big names, but as it turned out, our first game was embarrassing. We took to the field with a 41221, as in all games I decided to be conservative. Out of the blocks we missed an early sitter, but within 5 mins, Morocco had us on the ropes. 15 mins in we were a goal down, and behind on possession and shot counts. I evaluated our match strategy and dropped down to control and used the shouts work ball into the box and pass to feet, to try and win back possession.
We turned things around and equalised and then scored another to take the lead, by the end of the match we were in control of the match in spite of the fact that we had a lower shot count. We would need to be a lot better in our next match.
We had “home” advantage in the next match against Ireland, so I opted to field my 4411. This was one formation that I designed with an overlapping fullback and a crazy dribber set up on the left, and I knew we needed to try something different. This time around we completely dominated the game and our AMC managed to score a crucial winner. We may have totally dominated the match with 18 shots on goal vs their 3, but our wastefulness in front of goal was beginning to be a concern. Ah well, better to have a slow start and peak later. The formation worked as it should have, my players just became proficient at wasting chances. To top things off and depress me further we drew our next match against Australia. We fielded a 41221 because I thought being the “away” side I should just be conservative, since we had already qualified from our group and through to face Algeria in the next round.
My immediate reaction was “shit”. Morocco had made things tough for us in the opening match, so I elected to field some speedy AMs for my match using the 41221. And, our DLF finally produced a brace. Within the first 26 minutes we were three up, and then Algeria pulled one back from a corner. I dropped back to Control and told my players to Stay on Feet, knowing that things may get hairy against a side pulled no punches in the tackling department. Algeria withered away in the second half as we added another goal. We had finally managed to score more than 2 goals in a game.
Quarterfinals – Argentina, a team we had beaten 4-0 a week before the World Cup. Maybe that result lulled us into complacency. And it was exactly that kind of behaviour that led my keeper into playing a horrific backpass to Mendez, a gift he gleefully accepted in the 56th min. This was a brutal match, producing 8 yellow cards and needed the services of the Ambulatory services as two players got stretchered off. With 15 minutes to go and staring at defeat we needed a change, and this was forced on us with the injury to Westcott or right AMR. His substitute ran his socks off and from the jaws of defeat Neal Spiller finally showed that his brace from the match before was no flash in the pan, as he sent the English fans crazy with a late equaliser. That spurred the English team on when extra time came as Spiller scored again and our central defender finished the party with a simple tap-in to make it 3-1. We certainly weren’t making our journey any less interesting. The injection of pace with the forced introduction of Tendeng was a good turn of luck.
Semi-finals v Italy. Argentina, now Italy? This was not an easy road to the Final. My first time out this season and I was only hoping for a good run, but hell we were already this far. Our next match was going to be an epic semi-final. We hit the field with a 41221, and the Azurri came with their 352. From the go, I was worried. Italy played us off the park in the first twenty minutes, and I was beginning to get concerned. By the 30 min, we were 2 goals down and didn’t look like creating any decent chances. The 41221 was being nullified by their midfield and my DLF was getting no love from the 3 DCs.
During the second half break I dropped the formation and went to our 4411. And I had to make a hard decision, my DLF who was already on 4 goals whilst a decent favourite for the Golden Boot, wasn’t exactly the best player to play others in. I took off my DMC and him off. And brought on two strikers who could work off each other and play others in. We needed to work the ball around the box and take every chance that would come our way. Our MC Paul Boyham was now free to direct play from an MC position with players running around him and with the forward pair pulling defenders around we managed to get players into the box dribbling, and this resulted in a penalty in the 58th min. Less than 20 minutes later we pulled another back, and as I told my players to work the ball into the box and pass to feet, my strike pair managed to conjure a goal up on the 89th min . An epic comeback win.
The World Cup Final vs Netherlands.
After our semi-final win, I was so stoked, honestly I didn’t really care about the result. We hit the field with a 41221 as the away team whilst the Dutch came with a 442 diamond. We were going to miss the influential Paul Boyham in this match, and I was hoping that we could carry on our high into the Final. This wasn’t really a hard match to figure out, since they went with a diamond, I knew my centre would be vulnerable. So we stuck our most alert players there..and hoped that the attacking quartet would do their job. This was one match where my crazy dribbler on the left wing ended up being influential. This was their weaker flank and it didnt; take us long to take a two goal lead.
We dominated possession as the Dutch started tactic changing, I lost count of the number of times they changed formations as we stuck to our own. And with the lead secured, I narrowed the formation and told my players to stay on feet, and work ball into box. Even though the stats looked pretty even, this was easily the most boring match in the World Cup.
Three players from Stafford Rangers featured in the World Cup squad. Two of whom were actually my reserves who have since been sold. The player who will stick with us will undoubtably be Dobson – who won the Young Player of the World Cup
Lessons that can be drawn
Simply this, if you noticed I hardly made any major tactical changes. My reactions were totally based on ingame action, if I found myself up against a formation that was making my 41221 neutral, then I would change to my 4411 which was a bit more adventurous. In both formations I knew EXACTLY what kind of play to expect. As long as I had the right players in the “lockpicker”, AML and DLF position for my 41221 and the right players in my MCs and AMC position, I could envisage the kind of football we would play. If that didn’t happen I would just find one who had a bit more in the key attributes needed for that job.